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John E. Smelcer was born in 1963, and is of Ahtna Athabaskan Indian descent. Currently the Executive Director of the Ahtna Tribe's Heritage Foundation, he has held visiting professorships at universities around the world. He earned a doctorate in comparative literature in 1993 and a masters degree in literature and humanities in 1991. He is faculty at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
His work appears in numerous international anthologies by the likes of Random House, Dover, and American Indian Press. In 1994 he edited Durable Breath: Contemporary Native American Poetry (Salmon Run & American Indian Press). His poems have appeared in such periodicals as The Atlantic Monthly, and he is poetry editor at Rosebud, among the nation's most prestigious quarterlies of poetry and fiction.
August 2010 Book of the Month. This is an astonishing tale of survival 'with more psychological depth than Robinson Crusoe*'; very poignant and based on true events. It delves deeper into its themes of survival and endurance than his previous novel The Great Death and delivers a stark and profound tale. The spare and evocative writing pays a great respect to the immense power of the elements and offers a fascinating insight into the lives of indigenous Alaskan Natives. * Quote from Frank McCourt
This is an extraordinary story of courage, commitment and survival of two young sisters in the harsh snowy Alaskan wilderness as they try to save themselves and in doing so, save each other. Beautifully written, this novel is inspired by the true story of the effect that European settlers had on Alaska, bringing with them as they did all manner of diseases, which the Natives had no immunity from. In some instances whole villages died out and to some, generations later, the period is still referred to as the Great Death. As the youngsters load up a raft to take them away from the death in their village their epic journey begins to find a new home.The author’s first novel The Trap is one of the most haunting novels we’ve read and was hugely well-received on first publication.